How to travel on a Budget?

This article first appeared on my in 2020 abandoned website

Budget traveling starts at home

While we worry about our budget in foreign countries it is easy to forget about it at home. Most of us keep going to the same restaurants and bars and have strong habits of consuming on daily basis. There is nothing wrong with consuming let me put it this way however.

Instead of going to a restaurant you already know, you could save the money and enjoy your next destinations exotic cuisine. And as an experienced budget traveler you could stay on the road for another day instead of going to the movies in your hometown.

Invite your friends and cook regional and seasonal food rather than eating out. Check and cut all the unnecessary costs with your next trip in mind. Either for the sake of a longer journey or for the sake of more options on your next trip.

Host people through Couchsurfing

Another thing you can already do at home is hosting people through Couchsurfing. Finding a host when traveling, especially without references, can be hard and time consuming. Some of the people you host will become friends and be gladly available for hosting when you visit their country. There is more of a balance if you already gave something to them.

There are plenty of surfers looking for a place and exactly for that reason we choose the people we host wisely. Read their profiles, their references and their message. Think about the things you might have in common.

There is nothing we can expect in return for hosting. We do it voluntarily. Therefore we need good experiences to keep going and the energy flowing. For a more relaxed hosting I recommend to take a look at this article.

Similar to finding a host in other countries we can search for travelers. They post public trips for their travel destinations on Couchsurfing. Search for travelers coming from your next travel destination and invite them. In touristy cities there are people from all over the world and soon this world turns out to be smaller than we thought. Take a look at the destinations page to see how widespread these contacts become in no time.

Plan a long trip, but travel short distances

In fact there are only three types of expenses we have to cover. Shelter, food and transport. This one is quite obvious. If you are lucky and you can take a break from your job, you are better off to travel for a long time. Accommodation and food can be kept small, while transportation is inevitable.

Furthermore if you want to see lots of places, travel for short distances only. Take the transportation of choice to the closest country on your list. By bus, plane, blablacar, train or hitchhiking you will be able to get there without breaking the budget. You will simply be able to see more for less.

How I save money on food?

In Norway I learnt that food can be cut down to a minimum, if you are used to it. The first week I was suffering from emotional weakness and a lack of energy due to the low carbohydrate consumption. I eventually got used to it and my energy level became more stable than before. Since then I cut down on sugar and frequently practice intermittent fasting to be able to eat less without being tired and down.

Intermittent fasting is not dieting and not eating less calories. It is just a way of scheduling your eating and for me it makes it much simpler to organise healthy eating while traveling. I eat once or twice a day. If twice a day it can as well be the same meal both times. You only have to find a supermarket twice a day.

If you are Couchsurfing you can plan your meals for the evenings and cook for your hosts as well. If there is no kitchen available I recommend the Trangia methylated spirits cooker, which in my opinion is the most simple yet solid solution to cook everywhere.

It always depends on what you want to experience in foreign countries. For me it is about people, atmosphere and nature. I can skip the restaurants, museums and the sightseeing. If you want them, go for it! Only skip what has no personal value and importance.

The cheapest ways of transport

While sometimes time consuming and challenging the cheapest way to move would be to hitchhiking. It is also the most adventurous option. I sometimes got rides with people who invited me to stay at their home or got out of their way to take me a little further. It is heartwarming and builds confidence to experience the kindness of strangers.

A similar alternative would be the shared economy platform blablacar. It connects drivers with other travelers to share the expenses. Blablacar becomes bigger and bigger and you can easily find rides to a lot of places in Europe.

Another alternative are the buses. Since the law preventing long distance buses in Germany dropped in 2013 they spread all over Europe. While not the most recovering sleep, you can take night buses and save the money you would otherwise spend on hostels.

Introduced in 2017 the Interflix ticket offered by flixbus is an alternative to the Interrail passes. It enables you to take 5 direct connections in 3 month for €99,-. So one ride is 20,- no matter how long it takes.

You can find direct connections as long as from Munich to Barcelona. It is a 20+ hours journey, however it could not be cheaper than that. Please notice that you can only reserve your rides 48 hours after purchasing the ticket. It happened to me that I wanted to leave in the morning and had to wait for two more days.

Work in exchange for accommodation becomes more and more popular and that’s for a reason. The website connects people who offer a place to sleep and food in exchange for voluntary work. The different types of work you can find are endless.

From child care, hostel and cafe jobs and language exchange to farmwork and wildlife sanctuaries. I met countless people with interesting stories about their workaway experiences. As two of my surfers said, it is a long term Couchsurfing.

Find out more in their video on the Youtube channel!

Why I travel cheap?

I like to travel cheap for the same reasons I like to live a simple life. Not having more money, but for the appreciation that comes with a minimalist lifestyle. For the small gifts of life and the precious encounters that value more if we commit to having less. For the taste of a rich meal after a few days of starving or the comfort of a bed after sleeping in a tent for a while.

Gerhard Reus